Friday, August 30, 2013

Spicy Southwest Slaw


Mexican food is one of my family's favorite cuisines.  Problem is, I often find myself struggling with what veggies to pair with it.  I mean let's be honest, no one wants tacos and brussel sprouts.  And as much veggies as we pile on our tacos, burritos, and fajitas, our plates aren't complete without a hefty side of produce.  So, like most things in life, this spicy slaw was born out of necessity.  Now, let's clear one thing up right now, I am NOT a fan of gloppy, sweet, heavily mayo-ed coleslaw.  This slaw however, is not at all reminiscent of the old, outdated slaw you're familiar with.  It is bright, spicy, and super fresh.

It is the perfect accompaniment to any Mexican cuisine, as well as a wonderful topping for tacos and burritos.  It has the perfect amount of heat from the jalapenos and cayenne pepper.  For my boys, who are not as fond of spicy foods as my husband and I, I set aside a small amount of slaw and leave out the jalapenos. 

I love this dish.  I singlehandedly finished off a bowl the size of a trough just as I was writing this.  It is even better the next day, allowing for all the delicious southwest flavors of the dressing to fully permeate the veggies.  Even though our lazy summer days have been replaced with hectic school schedules, the weather is still warm, and perfect for this crisp, crunchy, cool slaw.  This is definitely one of my favorite side dishes, and I must remember to double or triple this recipe to ensure I have leftovers next time!


Cook's note:  After completing this recipe, it dawned on me that I should have used radishes in this slaw as well.  Their crunchy, spicy, bite would complement all the flavors in this slaw and I will definitely include them the next time I make this, and I urge you to do the same!  So even though I did not use them when I made this, I did add them to the ingredient list.
Spicy Southwest Slaw

3 cups red or green cabbage, finely shredded
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced (use 2 for additional heat, omit for kiddos)
1 red onion, diced
3 radishes, chopped
3 Tbs chopped cilantro


1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs honey
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
1/2 tsp cumin
juice of 1/2 a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all veggies together in large bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients together.
*This makes quite a bit of dressing. I prefer to add about half the dressing, and then add more as needed.  A good rule of thumb, you can always add, but you can't take away :)
Add desired amount of dressing to slaw and mix well to combine.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fried Plantains

Don't these look like little Chewbacca faces?  Once I pointed this out to my five year old Star Wars fanatic, these became his most requested dessert, which I can't complain about because these little beauties are a healthy treat anytime of the day.  Plantains are a big fruit that resemble a banana. Plantains are lower in sugar, and higher in starch than their popular cousins, making them a perfect Paleo snack.  

On the left, an unripe green plantain, on the right,  a near-death one! 

Plantains are very popular in Africa and Latin America, often referred to as the pasta and potatoes of the Caribbean. Plantains are considered a fruit, but often treated and regarded as a vegetable.  They are usually fried or baked and can be enjoyed at every stage of ripeness, from green and unblemished, to completely black.  In it's green stage, plantains are bland, starchy, and firm in texture, lending themselves well to savory dishes.  As the plantain evolves and turns black, it develops a much sweeter flavor and a slightly more banana-y aroma yet still remains quite firm.  In this fully ripened state they are well suited for recipes that benefit from a hint of sweetness, such as pancakes.  Plantains are highly nutritious and are:
  • good source of potassium and vitamins A & C
  • high in fiber
  • rich source of B complex vitamins, particularly high in B-6
  • fairly high in minerals including magnesium, iron, and phosphorus

When people ask me about our Paleo lifestyle, one thing I  notice is most people tend to clump low-carb and Paleo together.  This is a common misconception.  As I like to tell people, "Paleo isn't low carb, it's low crap."  As a family, we love our starchy tubers, root veggies, and pretty much every piece of fruit known to man.  Our bodies need carbohydrates to function properly, and if you are an active person, engaging in regular physical activity, up'ing your carb intake is absolutely essential.  It is also imperative that children receive enough healthy carbs.  Of course, the type of carbohydrates you consume is of utmost importance.  We steer clear of simple carbs, and spend our time enjoying complex carbohydrates at every meal.  I could write a whole post about the low carb craze, and how it can sabotage an athlete's performance faster than any other dietary choice, but for the sake of this article, I'll keep it short and concise. 

Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient, providing the body with energy, both short and long term. In large, stamina, endurance, and power, are completely dependent on adequate glycogen stores, and the only way to provide muscles with glycogen is to supply the body with carbs. Muscles have about a three hour glycogen store, and without constantly replenishing them, you experience glycogen depletion, and athletic performance suffers greatly, as well induces symptoms including fatigue and decreased cognitive ability.  Carbohydrates also:

  • are necessary for brain function
  • supply the body with vitamins and minerals
  • provide the body with fiber


I have to admit, before adopting the Paleo lifestyle, I had never touched a plantain.  As far as I was concerned, they were just funky looking bananas that I had no idea what to do with.  My first run in with a plantain, came in the way of crackers and called for really green plantains.  I fell in love with them from the very first bite, (due mostly to the fact that I hadn't enjoyed a crunchy cracker in over a year), but I loved them nonetheless.  After my first successful attempt, I began utilizing plantains in all sorts of recipes, from pancakes to brownies, and was intrigued with how versatile they were. 

At this point, your whole house will be enveloped in the sweet, fragrant aroma of fried plantains!

Plantains are a jack-of-all trades and I couldn't believe it had taken me 30 some odd years to discover them.  One of the many remarkable things I've learned since adopting a real food lifestyle, is the discovery of a whole new world of food that I never knew existed.  I find myself venturing away from the mundane, predictable veggies, and going down the road less travelled as far as produce is concerned.  Veggies I once avoided out of sheer ignorance, I now find myself not only trying, but loving as well.  The overlooked, the shunned, the outcasts.  Rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, beets, and plantains, have all found a safe haven of acceptance on our plates.

All covered in cinnamon-coconut sugary goodness!

Plantains are undoubtedly good in a variety of recipes, but sometimes simplicity rules.  My all time favorite way to enjoy plantains are simply baked or fried.  No frills, no bells and whistles.  I enjoy making tostones, a classic Latin American dish which uses green plantains, fries them twice, and then are sprinkled with salt.  But the most popular version, in my house at least, is using ripe plantains, fried in nourishing coconut oil, and sprinkled with coconut sugar and cinnamon.  Prepared this way they really satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a nutritious post-workout snack or dessert.

So next time you're perusing the produce section, pick up a few plantains and give them a try.  I promise you won't be disappointed!

Fried Plantains

1 fully ripe plantain, black, or yellow with black spots
3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, or enough to cover bottom of pan
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix coconut sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside.

Prepare plantain by cutting off both ends.  Score the plantain on two or three sides, then peel off skin.  Slice into 1/4" -1/2" rounds. 

Heat oil in small sauté pan over medium heat.  Place slices in hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown, taking care not to burn.  If it seems like they are cooking to quickly, turn heat down to medium-low.

Remove from heat to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle on cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Allow to cool slightly (or dive right in and suffer the consequences!)and enjoy!